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What’s Happening to Adult Education?

| March 7, 2013 | 16 Comments
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photo by Lillian R. Mongeau/Oakland North

photo by Lillian R. Mongeau/Oakland North

In his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2013-2014, Governor Jerry Brown announced that California is no longer facing a budget deficit. In relation to funding education, his budget increases state funding per student in K-12 schools to $2,700 by 2016-2017. For K-12 and community colleges, funding is projected to increase by $2.7 billion next year and $19 billion by 2016-2017.

What of adult education? The plan recognizes that K-12 school districts and community colleges are authorized to provide adult education instruction, but highlights a lack of coordination between the two systems in terms of serving adult learners. The contention is that the system is currently inefficient and unaccountable. The Governor’s plan proposes $300 million in new Proposition 98 General Fund revenues to fund a comparable K-12 adult education service delivery system within the community college system.

This plan would fund core instructional areas such as vocational education, ESL, adult basic and secondary education, and citizenship. Courses outside of these areas would require students to pay in full. Adult education would be relocated within the community college system.

The Governor’s budget recognizes the importance of adult education and that it must be funded. The issue is where and how it is to be delivered.

The adult and community college level groups of CATESOL are engaged in discussions right now looking at questions such as:

  • Which agencies should be responsible for delivering adult ESL instruction?
  • What are the benefits of keeping adult ESL in the community adult schools?
  • How do the 17 community colleges in California currently offering non-credit ESL programs serve their learners?
  • What are the distinctions between the services community adult schools in K-12 districts and community colleges provide? Whom does each type of institution serve?

Resources

Adult Education Disappearing in California 9/12

A new report by the research group EdSource finds that adult education has been disappearing, ever since school districts were given permission to take funds once reserved for those programs and use them for other educational purposes.

At Risk: Adult Schools in California 6/2012

The EdSource survey found that 23 of the state’s 30 largest school districts have made major cuts to their adult education programs …

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Category: ESL Insights, Post-Secondary ESL

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About the Author ()

Maxine Einhorn is from London and has lived in the Bay Area for 12 years. She has worked in adult education in London,UK, for over twenty years as a tenured instructor and department manager. She has an MA in Film and TV from University of London and has taught, moderated and appraised academic work in film studies and media literacy at undergraduate and college level. She runs the ESL/ Post Secondary project at KQED which offers media-rich resources for and created by ESL educators.
  • http://www.adulteducationmatters.com Cynthia Eagleton

    Thank you SO much for covering this very important issue. Edsource got it right, Adult Ed has been cut to the bone in the past five years. Oakland, which once served over 25,000 was cut last week. Sweetwater, a once huge program south of San Diego, is on the chopping block next week. Please visit the Alliance for California Adult Schools Facebook page. Read the letter from James Gulli, retired dean of instruction from Citrus College. Check out the blog I run: adulteducationmatters.blogspot.com Check out saveouradultschool.wordpress.com Visit our school – San Mateo Adult School – next week during Adult Education week. Talk to our Director, Larry Teshara, and Assistant Director Tim Doyle. Read the stories at http://www.adultedlearners.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home Read Bruce Neuberger’s comments on the AEM blog. For years, Adult Ed quietly worked under the radar. The quiet work was good. Our work was good. Our was low in cost and high in efficacy. But staying under the radar? Not making sure people who we were and what we did and how we did it? That was a mistake. Because that allowed us to be seen as “unimportant” when in fact, Adult Education Matters. It matters deeply. You can also search for videos on youtube on teacherbruce1 and on AdultEdMatters.

  • http://www.adulteducationmatters.com Cynthia Eagleton

    Thank you SO much for covering this very important issue. Edsource got it right, Adult Ed has been cut to the bone in the past five years. Oakland, which once served over 25,000 was cut last week. Sweetwater, a once huge program south of San Diego, is on the chopping block next week. Please visit the Alliance for California Adult Schools Facebook page. Read the letter from James Gulli, retired dean of instruction from Citrus College. Check out the blog I run: adulteducationmatters.blogspot.com Check out saveouradultschool.wordpress.com Visit our school – San Mateo Adult School – next week during Adult Education week. Talk to our Director, Larry Teshara, and Assistant Director Tim Doyle. Read the stories at http://www.adultedlearners.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home Read Bruce Neuberger’s comments on the AEM blog. For years, Adult Ed quietly worked under the radar. The quiet work was good. Our work was good. Our was low in cost and high in efficacy. But staying under the radar? Not making sure people who we were and what we did and how we did it? That was a mistake. Because that allowed us to be seen as “unimportant” when in fact, Adult Education Matters. It matters deeply. You can also search for videos on youtube on teacherbruce1 and on AdultEdMatters.

  • http://www.adulteducationmatters.com Cynthia Eagleton

    One more bit: “The Governor’s budget recognizes the importance of adult education and that it must be funded. The issue is where and how it is to be delivered.” Yes and no. Parent Ed, Family Literacy, Disabled Adults, and Seniors are essentially being thrown under the bus. Even though seniors, through decades of paying taxes, helped to build and continue to fund public education, they may soon be denied the free and low-cost access to classes they deserve, and which empower them to contribute to the welfare of their families, communities and the state And even though every day neuroscience comes out with a new study noting the connection between exercise, social activity, and mental stimulation and the prevention or slowing of Alzheimers and other diseases, which prevention and slowing saves the state millions, such classes are not considered important. Why the heck not?

    Please visit Kristin Pursley’s blog: saveouradultschool.wordpress.com. Her work is phenomenal. Here’s a shorter post where she lays things out point by point: http://saveouradultschool.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/why-keeping-adult-schools-within-the-k-12-system-serves-californians-best/

    Again, I SO appreciate your willingness to investigate these issues. The loss of classes for seniors is going completely under the radar and as noted… that leads to going under the bus.

    • http://education.kqed.org Monty Lish

      Thanks for the postings with the links. I believe that all of our classes for seniors here in Sweetwater district where we served 29,000 adult students have been eliminated. The next to go are the Parenting Classes. We offer parenting classses as fee based classes for which the students have to pay each month. We are damaging our communities for decades to come by failing them in this way. THe incidence of child abuse will rise and the effects will harm us for decades if not generations to come.

      Adult Schools are VITAL to the safety and well being of our parents and children. This will be Governor Brown’s legacy – The Destruction of Adult Schools that have been around for over 150 years. WE had Adult school even back in the Great Depression of the 1930′s — because we knew even back the in the most desperate of times that training and basic education would get people back to work. We have a community college next door [San Diego Community College] that is touted as an example of how Governor Brown believes adult education should be delivered. AND, the instructors there at SDCC, who have often times collaborated with our district, are trying to explain why adult education and the credit classes are completely separate. They don’t share the same campuses or administration. They are also very concerned that the transition of students and teachers and facilities will take years, and it will probably leave many thousands of students without classes for years until an infrastructure can be built for them at the community colleges. The biggest losers in this plan are the students. We teachers know how to re-train in a year or two [if necessary] to transfer into college or high school systems. But our students will get lost while waiting years to get the classes they need.

      We will appeal to the Sweetwater Board of Education to avoid another $3 million in cuts to our classes and programs on Monday March 11 at 6:00 p.m. in the board room at 1130 Fifth Avenue. we will also be asking for their support and the support of the community to restore dedicated Adult Education Funding in the K-12 schools until a truly effective way to transition the students and classes and programs can be developed. We have a stellar 6 Year Accreditation from WASC, and we will be turned over to the governance of SWC which is was on WASC probation. HMMMMMMMM!

  • http://www.adulteducationmatters.com Cynthia Eagleton

    One more bit: “The Governor’s budget recognizes the importance of adult education and that it must be funded. The issue is where and how it is to be delivered.” Yes and no. Parent Ed, Family Literacy, Disabled Adults, and Seniors are essentially being thrown under the bus. Even though seniors, through decades of paying taxes, helped to build and continue to fund public education, they may soon be denied the free and low-cost access to classes they deserve, and which empower them to contribute to the welfare of their families, communities and the state And even though every day neuroscience comes out with a new study noting the connection between exercise, social activity, and mental stimulation and the prevention or slowing of Alzheimers and other diseases, which prevention and slowing saves the state millions, such classes are not considered important. Why the heck not?

    Please visit Kristin Pursley’s blog: saveouradultschool.wordpress.com. Her work is phenomenal. Here’s a shorter post where she lays things out point by point: http://saveouradultschool.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/why-keeping-adult-schools-within-the-k-12-system-serves-californians-best/

    Again, I SO appreciate your willingness to investigate these issues. The loss of classes for seniors is going completely under the radar and as noted… that leads to going under the bus.

    • http://education.kqed.org Monty Lish

      Thanks for the postings with the links. I believe that all of our classes for seniors here in Sweetwater district where we served 29,000 adult students have been eliminated. The next to go are the Parenting Classes. We offer parenting classses as fee based classes for which the students have to pay each month. We are damaging our communities for decades to come by failing them in this way. THe incidence of child abuse will rise and the effects will harm us for decades if not generations to come.

      Adult Schools are VITAL to the safety and well being of our parents and children. This will be Governor Brown’s legacy – The Destruction of Adult Schools that have been around for over 150 years. WE had Adult school even back in the Great Depression of the 1930′s — because we knew even back the in the most desperate of times that training and basic education would get people back to work. We have a community college next door [San Diego Community College] that is touted as an example of how Governor Brown believes adult education should be delivered. AND, the instructors there at SDCC, who have often times collaborated with our district, are trying to explain why adult education and the credit classes are completely separate. They don’t share the same campuses or administration. They are also very concerned that the transition of students and teachers and facilities will take years, and it will probably leave many thousands of students without classes for years until an infrastructure can be built for them at the community colleges. The biggest losers in this plan are the students. We teachers know how to re-train in a year or two [if necessary] to transfer into college or high school systems. But our students will get lost while waiting years to get the classes they need.

      We will appeal to the Sweetwater Board of Education to avoid another $3 million in cuts to our classes and programs on Monday March 11 at 6:00 p.m. in the board room at 1130 Fifth Avenue. we will also be asking for their support and the support of the community to restore dedicated Adult Education Funding in the K-12 schools until a truly effective way to transition the students and classes and programs can be developed. We have a stellar 6 Year Accreditation from WASC, and we will be turned over to the governance of SWC which is was on WASC probation. HMMMMMMMM!

  • Kristen Pursley

    Thank you for bringing the situation of adult education to the attention of your audience. Far from being broken, disorganized or disfunctional, as so many policy documents claim, adult education serves its students well. If you carefully read policy documents like the recent Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) report on restructuring adult education or the State Strategic Plan for Adult Education on which the LAO report is based, you find a lot of generalizations about how adult schools are in a terrible mess, but no facts to back it up. As an English teacher, that jumps out at me. If the writers of these reports were high school students, I would tell them they aren’t giving details to back up their assertions, and I wouldn’t give them a very good grade. The State Strategic Plan document, “Linking Adult’s to Opportunity”, which goes on to assert that adult education needs a huge overhaul, actually has a very good section on the returns on investment of adult education.

    In addition to improving employability and income for its students, some additional benefits adult education provides, according to “Linking Adults to Opportunity”, are: improvements in voting levels and civic engagement, improved individual and family health, reduced recidivism, and improvement to children’s education when the parents are educated. Adult educators are hardly surprised by this impressive list; we have all seen it first hand. If the system is in disarray, why does it produce all these wonderful benefits? The answer, of course is that it is not in disarray. The only disorganization is that created by a state government that pulled the rug out from under it financially. The governor’s plan is hardly likely to produce more order.

    One of the questions in the post points to this: “How do the 17 community colleges in California currently offering non-credit ESL serve their learners?” There are about 300 adult schools in California, and there are 112 community colleges. Of those 112 community colleges, only 17 provide ESL classes that are similar to adult school classes. First of all, if that is true, where is this wasteful overlap between community college services and adult school services we keep hearing so much about? Seventeen to three hundred doesn’t sound like much overlap at all. And second, 95 out of 112 community colleges will have to start from scratch learning to do what 300 adult schools already know how to do. Is this sound planning? Does it sound to you like this will produce an organized, smoothly functioning system that makes the best use of our tax dollars? No. It’s tearing down something that works to build something that won’t work as well. Stand by your local adult school and don’t let the state close it down.

  • Kristen Pursley

    Thank you for bringing the situation of adult education to the attention of your audience. Far from being broken, disorganized or disfunctional, as so many policy documents claim, adult education serves its students well. If you carefully read policy documents like the recent Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) report on restructuring adult education or the State Strategic Plan for Adult Education on which the LAO report is based, you find a lot of generalizations about how adult schools are in a terrible mess, but no facts to back it up. As an English teacher, that jumps out at me. If the writers of these reports were high school students, I would tell them they aren’t giving details to back up their assertions, and I wouldn’t give them a very good grade. The State Strategic Plan document, “Linking Adult’s to Opportunity”, which goes on to assert that adult education needs a huge overhaul, actually has a very good section on the returns on investment of adult education.

    In addition to improving employability and income for its students, some additional benefits adult education provides, according to “Linking Adults to Opportunity”, are: improvements in voting levels and civic engagement, improved individual and family health, reduced recidivism, and improvement to children’s education when the parents are educated. Adult educators are hardly surprised by this impressive list; we have all seen it first hand. If the system is in disarray, why does it produce all these wonderful benefits? The answer, of course is that it is not in disarray. The only disorganization is that created by a state government that pulled the rug out from under it financially. The governor’s plan is hardly likely to produce more order.

    One of the questions in the post points to this: “How do the 17 community colleges in California currently offering non-credit ESL serve their learners?” There are about 300 adult schools in California, and there are 112 community colleges. Of those 112 community colleges, only 17 provide ESL classes that are similar to adult school classes. First of all, if that is true, where is this wasteful overlap between community college services and adult school services we keep hearing so much about? Seventeen to three hundred doesn’t sound like much overlap at all. And second, 95 out of 112 community colleges will have to start from scratch learning to do what 300 adult schools already know how to do. Is this sound planning? Does it sound to you like this will produce an organized, smoothly functioning system that makes the best use of our tax dollars? No. It’s tearing down something that works to build something that won’t work as well. Stand by your local adult school and don’t let the state close it down.

  • http://www.kqed.org/eslinsights Maxine

    Thank you for this reference, Cynthia. It is really helpful.
    Kristin Pursley’s blog: saveouradultschool.wordpress.com.

  • http://www.kqed.org/eslinsights Maxine

    Thank you for this reference, Cynthia. It is really helpful.
    Kristin Pursley’s blog: saveouradultschool.wordpress.com.

  • Anne Agard

    Some thoughts from my perspective as a community college ESL instructor in Oakland:

    Currently we are overwhelmed with immigrant students in need of the adult school ESL services that were offered by Oakland adult schools in the past but have now been cut. Our existing program was never designed to serve low-level and non-academic ESL students, and the idea of being able to expand with appropriate classes for them is on the face of it most welcome.

    My concerns, however, are:

    1) that the addition of a new kind of programming be adequately funded. Existing community college resources are stretched to the breaking point and beyond to serve the college-bound English language learners who already pack our classes. New staff would be required to develop, administer and teach in an adult school program, to say nothing of the infrastructure demands of such a program; we do not have sufficient classrooms, computer labs or support staff as it is.

    2) My understanding is that community colleges that already include non-credit adult school programs have generally staffed them with teachers who are paid at a much lower rate than community college teachers. The justification given for this is that adult school teaching does not require a master’s degree and community college teaching does, but in the field of ESL the difference in skill level, time and work required is not significant–as I know from having taught in both environments. In fact, many ESL teachers with master’s degrees are “freeway fliers” whose weekly itinerary includes both college and adult school. The very low part-time wages paid to most adult school teachers have always been a gross inequity, which I hate to see perpetuated in the community college system.

  • Anne Agard

    Some thoughts from my perspective as a community college ESL instructor in Oakland:

    Currently we are overwhelmed with immigrant students in need of the adult school ESL services that were offered by Oakland adult schools in the past but have now been cut. Our existing program was never designed to serve low-level and non-academic ESL students, and the idea of being able to expand with appropriate classes for them is on the face of it most welcome.

    My concerns, however, are:

    1) that the addition of a new kind of programming be adequately funded. Existing community college resources are stretched to the breaking point and beyond to serve the college-bound English language learners who already pack our classes. New staff would be required to develop, administer and teach in an adult school program, to say nothing of the infrastructure demands of such a program; we do not have sufficient classrooms, computer labs or support staff as it is.

    2) My understanding is that community colleges that already include non-credit adult school programs have generally staffed them with teachers who are paid at a much lower rate than community college teachers. The justification given for this is that adult school teaching does not require a master’s degree and community college teaching does, but in the field of ESL the difference in skill level, time and work required is not significant–as I know from having taught in both environments. In fact, many ESL teachers with master’s degrees are “freeway fliers” whose weekly itinerary includes both college and adult school. The very low part-time wages paid to most adult school teachers have always been a gross inequity, which I hate to see perpetuated in the community college system.

  • http://www.skylinecollege.edu/esol/index.php Leigh Anne Shaw

    Thank you for bringing this topic to the attention of your readers. A critical error in assumption is being made about English language learners (ELLs) by both the Governor’s office as well as the LAO. That error is in the definition of “adult learner.”

    “Adult” may be defined as anyone over 18 years of age, but while the demographic of adults served at adult ed schools and community colleges occasionally overlap, they more often than not are radically different. Adult ed schools excel in working with adults with low academic, socioeconomic, and cultural proficiencies. Few of their students are college, degree, or transfer-bound (that is not to say none, for several are). Many adult ed school students require the flexibility of adult ed to accomodate the work schedules they have in the service industries. Many crave the social interaction that their work and home lives do not provide. While they may thrive at adult ed schools, many lack the collegiate behaviors and habits of mind necessary to succeed at a higher education institution.

    Community colleges also serve some of these individuals, but are more likely to serve a much wider demographic that includes traditional-age college students, working professionals, foreign-born professionals with advanced degrees, graduate-degree pursuants, TOEFL test-seekers, small business owners, parents, and elders. In one community college class, one can have a 62-year-old novelist and university lecturer from Vietnam, a 50-year-old atomic physicist, a 38-year-old 5th-grade graduate and mother of five, a 32-year-old shift manager seeking clearer writing skills for a promotion, and a 29-year-old preparing for his GREs. Why the state assumes that all of these individuals have the same needs that can be met by the same type of adult instruction is indicative of the scant research that is being done on ELLs in California and elsewhere. California’s ELLs do not deserve a one-size-fits-all solution; they deserve one in which both adult ed schools and community colleges are funded adequately to help all learners find a productive place in our society.

  • http://www.skylinecollege.edu/esol/index.php Leigh Anne Shaw

    Thank you for bringing this topic to the attention of your readers. A critical error in assumption is being made about English language learners (ELLs) by both the Governor’s office as well as the LAO. That error is in the definition of “adult learner.”

    “Adult” may be defined as anyone over 18 years of age, but while the demographic of adults served at adult ed schools and community colleges occasionally overlap, they more often than not are radically different. Adult ed schools excel in working with adults with low academic, socioeconomic, and cultural proficiencies. Few of their students are college, degree, or transfer-bound (that is not to say none, for several are). Many adult ed school students require the flexibility of adult ed to accomodate the work schedules they have in the service industries. Many crave the social interaction that their work and home lives do not provide. While they may thrive at adult ed schools, many lack the collegiate behaviors and habits of mind necessary to succeed at a higher education institution.

    Community colleges also serve some of these individuals, but are more likely to serve a much wider demographic that includes traditional-age college students, working professionals, foreign-born professionals with advanced degrees, graduate-degree pursuants, TOEFL test-seekers, small business owners, parents, and elders. In one community college class, one can have a 62-year-old novelist and university lecturer from Vietnam, a 50-year-old atomic physicist, a 38-year-old 5th-grade graduate and mother of five, a 32-year-old shift manager seeking clearer writing skills for a promotion, and a 29-year-old preparing for his GREs. Why the state assumes that all of these individuals have the same needs that can be met by the same type of adult instruction is indicative of the scant research that is being done on ELLs in California and elsewhere. California’s ELLs do not deserve a one-size-fits-all solution; they deserve one in which both adult ed schools and community colleges are funded adequately to help all learners find a productive place in our society.

  • http://www.strayer.edu/online-programs Jenny

    It is sad that there isn’t emphasis on continued education for adults. We should all be striving to learn more, and making adult programs nearly as important as kids eduction.

  • http://www.strayer.edu/online-programs Jenny

    It is sad that there isn’t emphasis on continued education for adults. We should all be striving to learn more, and making adult programs nearly as important as kids eduction.